How To Use Light to Help Make You Feel More Awake or Ready to Sleep

Apartment Therapy's Home Remedies

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When we first moved into our current home, something bothered me about how I felt in it. I thought maybe I wasn't used to the vaulted ceilings, or maybe I needed to unpack more for it to feel more cozy. Then a friend pointed out that the lights were casting a cool-toned light. Bingo! I told my husband we needed to replace the light bulbs right away. It sounds dramatic, but changing to warm light bulbs has completely changed my mood.

I may be more affected by light than others, but the flip side to being sensitive to light's effects is that I can use it to make me feel a certain way at different times of day.

Light exposure and our circadian biological clocks are closely intertwined. The National Sleep Foundation explains:

In the mornings, with exposure to light, the [Suprachiasmatic nucleus, the part of the brain that controls the circadian biological clock] sends signals to raise body temperature and produce hormones like cortisol. The SCN also responds to light by delaying the release of other hormones like melatonin, which is associated with sleep onset and is produced when the eyes signal to the SCN that it is dark. Melatonin levels rise in the evening and stay elevated throughout the night, promoting sleep.

In the morning, opening the drapes or blinds or even sitting (or exercising!) outside if the weather permits can really give you a jump start on feeling awake.

Using lamps during the day to cast light on tasks or into pleasing areas of your home or office (like the little corner with the plant and the photo of your family) can help keep you focused and just make you feel good.

It's my habit to turn off all overhead lights as the evening progresses. The softer light of lamps seems to affect the atmosphere. Our voices get quieter and the association between lower light and sleep signals to our bodies that bedtime is approaching. (I have a hunch this also helped my babies learn day from night pretty quickly.)

Are you conscious of light's effect on you? How do you purposely use it to your advantage?

(Image credits: Jesse's Modern Bachelor Pad, photographed by Kim Lucian for Apartment Therapy)

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